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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Pratsya volontera

    Ivan Lutkov: “I didn’t believe the war would start. I didn’t think they would take such a step”


    АвторAuthor: Oleksandra Kisel | Translation: Roman Klochko

    15 June 2022

    Ivan Lutkov from Mykolayiv takes care of one of the city’s air-raid shelters, helps with evacuation and humanitarian aid for citizens. He wasn’t ready that the war would start. But now he does his best to make victory closer. 

    At 5 am on February 24, my mother called me and said that they heard explosions. Then there was a shelling of our military airfield. Their house was not damaged, but it was scary. I felt confused, didn’t understand what’s going on, and was afraid for children and relatives.

    I took my wife and children to her mother in another area. After that, I went to check how my parents are: shelling didn’t stop all that time. While I was driving my wife and children went down to the air-raid shelter set up in one of the schools. That was how I got there at the first time. It seems to have been the second day of the war. In general, the city authorities prepared, there were announcements with the nearest shelters, although not all of them were open. When we first came here, there were about 500 people in one room, all strangers, all panicked; there were a lot of noise and children were scared. 

    “A duty teacher was responsible for the shelter. Imagine that: a woman with a baby and all the shelter full of the same scared people”. 

    I asked my wife: “Should I join?” She asked for coordination because it was really scary. Now I can say that I take care of this shelter. Today there are about 30 permanent residents here. When it gets “hot”, about 60 people go down. “Permanent” people have lived here from the very beginning, although their apartments are nearby. These are elderly people, residents of the upper floors of houses, and mothers with children: they are afraid do not have time to reach the shelter when shelling starts. Everyone has different levels of sensitivity and perception of stress.

    Day in the shelter

    A usual day in the shelter

    In order not to let any unknown people into the school, we welded the entrances and left only those we used. It turned out that there were welders and electricians in the shelter, they just were fixing electricity in our basement. We found a generator and organized a connection to it. We even organized a separate canteen! It was because we were not allowed to enter the school one. We have organized life here because there are people who are afraid to go out. It is mostly mothers with children and elderly people.

    After each bombing, after each siren, little by little, everyone made this difficult decision and evacuated where it was possible –  Poland, Germany, Spain. Most people moved from us to Moldova. At the borders, they were helped as much as they could – hot food, warm clothes, blankets, food for animals, and shelter. Everyone stepped out of their comfort zone.

    “My family is leaving. Also, it is getting sad because there are fewer people in Mykolayiv. When I calm down a bit, I think it’s better to worry about how they are there than to be afraid that they are somewhere here”.

    In addition to the shelter, I am now the assistant elder of the Orthodox Church. Together with them, I also help those who need it. We help with food and medicine. The need for medicines is very high because most of them are not available in our pharmacies. It is especially true for the treatment of diabetes, heart drugs. However, volunteers bring them – for example, they’ve just delivered medicines from Odesa. In the area where my parents used to live, there are still many elderly people who are afraid to go out. We provide them with food as well. 


    Ivan with volunteer Lilia

    Today I slept at home, not in the shelter. I collected water bottles from all the neighbors because we don’t have water for the third day. I went to my parents, they have an old well, I kept it in reserve until the last minute. While I was getting water, the air raid began. Now I have reached the shelter, and we are deciding how to replenish water supplies.

    Yan has immediately volunteered to help me in the shelter, now he is like a supply manager here. Everyone is doing everything they can. For example, one organization has given a big trailer and charitable foundations send us the necessary medicines on request.

    In my opinion, the city is relatively lucky. Nearby villages are suffering badly. People lived in basements without food and water. We almost always had water and electricity supply so everyone relaxed a bit. And now there is no water for the third day, the city council does not seem to have prepared enough. Only yesterday they started sending water carriers to the areas. 

    If there is an air alarm or explosions are heard somewhere, our small circle of friends calls each other. The area, where our shelter is set up, has been recently affected by cluster bombs that hit three parallel streets. People died at the bus stops, minibuses were smashed as well as the flower stalls where my mother’s friends worked. 

    Drawings of children in the shelter

    Drawings of children in the shelter

    The feeling of the city has changed a lot, it is empty. There is no joy that you are going home and somebody is waiting for you there or that you can come to your mother and drink a cup of tea. I travel around the city a lot. It’s hard to see thousands of people – women and children – leaving here by evacuation buses every day. The streets are almost empty. 

    “You look into people’s eyes and see the confusion and anxiety. One cannot move out, others don’t want hoping that it will be more quiet here; somebody just doesn’t have place or money to leave”.

    I miss my children a lot, I miss the walks with them. I gathered for a long time, and a few weeks before the war I started jogging with my wife, taking my children with me.

    As soon as we win, I will immediately go to my wife and children. I’ll be ready in 20 minutes and if I understand that I can get there, go to them immediately, and everything else is irrelevant.

    Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
    Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.

    Why is it important to share this story?
    If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.

    АвторAuthor: Oleksandra Kisel | Translation: Roman Klochko


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